JavaFX: Sun isn't sure about the license

by Tim O'Brien

UPDATE (Memorial Day (US)): Nandini Ramani sent an update to the JavaFX Users group to clarify the licensing position. In this replyshe clears the air and states that Sun is actively encouraging distribution, read mroe on the update here.

Original Article Follows...

Wait a minute. There's something wrong here, Sun isn't even sure about the license for the JavaFX jars. This is definitely more fuel for the "JavaFX isn't real" crowd. And, the only thing I'm taking away from this discussion is that it is illegal to do anything with JavaFX at the moment. That's certainly what I take away from the user discussion. (Read the update this is no longer the case.)

Here is a message to from Guillaume Pothier from May 22nd. The emphasis is mine, and it's a question I've had myself...

Hi, I would like to know what is the current legal status of JavaFX.
In particular:
- Can I redistribute javafxrt.jar, Filters.jar and swing-layout.jar
with a GPL application? With a commercial application?

- Can I redistribute JavaFXPad?
- Can I distribute a modified version of JavaFXPad? Under which license?


And the response from Nandini Ramani on

The licensing terms for JavaFX are still under discussion. So, you
cannot redistribute JavaFXPad or any of the jars.
I will keep you posted
once we have something in place.

-Nandini don't introduce The Big Product at The Java Conference without figuring out what license the thing is going to be under. I'm trying to give this technology a chance, but this is insane. They've created this "open source community" which isn't really open or transparent in the least sense of the word. The fact that Sun can't just tell us what the licensing and redistribution terms for JavaFX are right off the bat should give us some pause.

Add to this the fact that all of the source code has the following header:

* $Id$
* Copyright 2007 Sun Microsystems, Inc. All rights reserved.
* SUN PROPRIETARY/CONFIDENTIAL. Use is subject to license terms.

Great, so what are those "license terms" again? I'm thinking GPLv2 + Classpath extension. Anyone else have any suggestions for Sun?


Fabrizio Giudici
2007-05-23 08:21:34
Well, really I don't see the problem. If there's no license yet, it's clearly proprietary in the interim.
It's just that the legal stuff takes always a long time.
Tim O'Brien
2007-05-23 08:25:39
If you are going to create a web page with an applet that uses JavaFX, or if you have a Java WebStart application. You are going to have to distribute the runtime jars. What Sun has said, very clearly is:

"you cannot redistribute JavaFXPad or any of the jars."

Shashank Tiwari
2007-05-23 11:29:09
The only conclusion I can draw from this fiasco is that a lot of open source developers are going to hate Sun for this lack of clarity and it can be very harmful. I understand that the legal issues can be complicated but couldn't Sun have restrained from claiming this to be an open source initiative (or making a big bang of it at JavaOne) before resolving the license issues.
Tim O'Brien
2007-05-23 11:49:23
@Shashank, this is much wider than just open source developers, this is everyone. Until they figure this out, "you cannot redistribute JavaFXPad or any of the jars" that's not just about open source.

I'm sure they will figure this out. But, this is just sloppy.

Peter Vermeulen
2007-05-23 12:08:54
I don't think it is a real problem (yet). As far as I can tell JavaFX is still in a 'preview' state, the javafx-site (at says: "Project OpenJFX is a project of the OpenJFX community for sharing early versions of the JavaFX Script language and for collaborating on its development. In the future, the JavaFX Script code will be open sourced. The governance, licensing, and community models will be worked out as the project evolves."
We should just have patience I think :) We have to give them the chance to figure out how it should look and behave, and then it can be released for real.
2007-05-24 07:02:34
IMHO in a competitive environment like the one that RIAs are evolving to with MS Silverlight, AJAX and especially Flex it would be a mistake of epic proportion for Sun not to go to GPL for JavaFX. ASAP!
Patrick Carroll
2007-05-24 11:34:04
I remember reading, years ago, a JoelOnSoftware piece on how Sun does this great job of shooting itself in the foot. Ah yes, here it is:

Meet the new Sun, same as the old Sun.

2007-05-24 19:22:32
Nandini has been a bit cryptic about this, probably because of some lawyers giving all kinds of mixed signals.

Somebody asked for clarification on the issue of applets and webstart and she never responded. I'm sure because it really doesn't make any sense to do this at all.

I have a JavaFX app distributed over JNLP and a lot of people have connected to it. I was thinking of taking it down because I don't want to get in trouble, but I keep getting mixed signals. Earlier this week it was featured on the front page of, and now today there's a very cool graphical editor that writes to JFX and it's also featured there.

Somebody at Sun needs to step back and say, do we really want to kill all the cool things people are doing with our preview technology by silly and obscure license terms?

Tim O'Brien
2007-05-24 22:49:19
@Augusto, the person that asked for clarification was me. :-) For the discussion thread, here are the questions I asked two days ago. I still haven't received an answer:

1. Does Sun have a timeline for a commercial quality product release of JavaFX?

2. Does Sun have any guidance as to what license the JavaFX Runtime will be distributed under?

3. Is the JavaFX Runtime the same thing as the JavaFX Script which is to be "open sourced" as per the FAQ?

4. Confirm that you are telling Augusto and others in a similar situation to immediately take down all applications that distribute JavaFX as a runtime dependency.

Still waiting. But also pausing everything JavaFX-related. Just not willing to commit to this thing if we don't know about licensing or whether JavaFX runtime is going to be open or closed.

I have a sinking feeling that the runtime will not be open sourced, but the JavaFX script portion of the code will be. But, I'm hoping that is not the case, if it is - well, that'll be an interesting discussion.

Andrew McVeigh
2007-05-25 02:55:52
This is a bit of a funny / silly discussion. Sun has publicly stated that they will open source JavaFX, but they haven't got around to it yet. The most likely reason is that the legal aspects are still being ironed out. The same type of whinging happened between Sun announcing it was open sourcing Java, and then finally releasing it.

Have a bit of faith people -- Sun has been aggressively open sourcing its software portfolio. There's absolutely no reason to think that JavaFX will be different, and you surely won't get in trouble for putting a simple applet using JFX on your page...


Tim O'Brien
2007-05-25 06:39:19
@Andrew, licensing discussions are not usually grounded in "faith" .

See for yourself, download the distribution (which currently contains no license). Then look at the source. We can currently see the Java FX Script source, the source to all of the Java FX script components, but there is this rather large FX runtime JAR. It is a legitimate question to ask, how will it be licensed? and when will it be licensed? BEcause lost in your response is the fact that: It is currently illegal to use JavaFX.

The question "Are you going to open source the runtime as well as the FX components?" This is far from whining, it is important that if Sun is going to use Open Source that they are able to answer these questions without hesistation.

Bill Woods
2007-05-29 10:03:45
Does anyone remember the South Park episode where
Cartman conked himself on the head so that he could go back
in time to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence for

It was a very interesting shot at how even though we want
things to be appear to be peaceful free and open we still have to also have those who are willing to fight for it as well.

By the fact everyone is saying what's on their minds here don't you
believe Sun is taking note of what and how they should license JFX?

By that fact as has been said here, I'm sure just like with the JVM you'll be able to use it anywhere you want in the short term as a binary. Then through the use of the JSR request what you wish included. It may also have a license similar to Linux (that's my guess).

Either way though, it will take a bit longer to complete the licensing as it hasn't even been declared beta as of yet to my knowledge. So play away, just don't put this in your commercial deliverables yet.

2007-06-04 20:14:32

What are the current problems that exists which cant be solved by the existing tools, API or any open source and how it is solved by JAVAFX, (it will be really great with example).

Is there any plug-in are availble for the IDEs

Under what circumstance we should go for JAVAFX

Will it be less development time required when we develop with JAVAFX.

What are advantages and disadvantages using JAVAFX?

Can I use the JAVAX with Sturts/Web2.0 or any web frameworks?

Can you elaborate the best practices which should be followed for the development?